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tv   Your Business  MSNBC  June 20, 2010 7:30am-8:00am EDT

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small business is impacted by the gulf oil spill. will they get financial aid from bp or the government is this and how giving your business a personal touch can keep your customers loyal. that and more coming up next on your business.
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hi, there. welcome to your business where we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. the oil spill in the gulf region is having a disastrous effect on the environment and on the bottom lean of thousands of small businesses in that area. what the small business other than want to know is will they be compensated for their losses. this week the president not only addressed the environmental ramifications of the bp gulf of mexico oil spill, he made clear his concerns about its impact on small business. >> that's why i'm pleased to announce that bp has agreed to set aside $20 billion to pay claims for damages resulting from this spill. this $20 billion will provide
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substantial assurance the claims people and businesses have will be honored. >> so far, getting financial help from bp has been problematic. with many saying the filing process is slow. >> it will be an extremely long process. it will entail a tremendous a paperwork. >> i just went to a claims office and heard firsthand the story of many small businesses who are already losing hundreds of thousands of dollars every month h. and they can't get an answer out of bp. >> and there are plenty of small business owners lining up to file claims with the company. start with the seafood industry. fishermen and oyster harvesters are being put out of work and some restaurants are filled with empty seats. >> i felt it along with everybody else. from what i understand, seafood restaurant sales are down 30%. >> i don't know. we're just living week to week right now. >> realtors and homeowners in affected states are seeing dwindling demand. and dealing with a slew of hotel and condo cancellations.
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>> we've had five totals ten weeks, about $30,000. >> people are not going come down to the beach and have the beach covered with oil. and we're getting skinned alive. >> state and federal authorities are stepping in to help. florida governor charlie crist says the state is offering one year interest free loans to affected small businesses. the small business administration is also offering working capital loans of up to $2 million to help pay for payroll and other bills starting to pile up. senator mary landry is the chair of the senate committee on small business and she joins us now. so we hear all these stories about these small businesses. people have put their life's work into grows these businesses and it's heart breaking. how confident are you that these people will be compensated in a way that's really meaningful from bp? >> there are two issues as chairman of the small business committee i'm focused on. one is making sure that this
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claims process works for small businesses throughout the gulf coast who have been put out of business lieu through no fault their own or almost being put out of business. and if this h doesn't get fixed soon, will be. so those are grocery stores, catering company, small hotels, large hotels, convention company, service companies along the gulf who had nothing to do and just find therapieses collapsing because of this oil spill. bp's claims process and the federal government's claims process must work for them. in addition, i held a hearing today as the chair of the small business committee with my counterpart, senator snow, to examine how well bp and the coast guard are receiving ideas from thousands of small businesses across the country who have very good and emerging technologies to try fix this problem. kevin costner testified. he's been a great voice for small business across america. and we got some good information this morning. >> i want to go back to the
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point about the claims process. there's been so many complaints about people sitting on the phone for hours, the paperwork being lost. there's frankly no time. you know as a small business, you're often living month to month. and so how quickly do you think you can get this fixed with them? >> we're pushing and i'm not the only one. there are other committees on the hill pushing that hard. and i know it's a priority for the president. he spoke about it. $20 billion has been set aside. but part of that is expediting the claims process. so if you're a charter boat captain but nobody's chartering your boat, last year you made a million dollar, this year you can't make anything, that claims process has to accommodate that loss. and this will happen all over the country, not just the gulf coast, but primarily the gulf coast companies are at risk. >> how big can that claim be and how far can it reach out? maybe you made a million dollars
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last year and you only make $500,000 this year. but now you're out of business. then what happens? >> that's a good question and that's what the claims process is all about. but the idea of it is that bp will pick up 100% of the economic loss and the environmental damage and degradation. it will be a big ticket, whether $20 billion or $30 billion or $40 billion, who knows. but the first step is setting aside that $20 billion and then getting this claims process up and running. meanwhile, we're still trying to capital well, skim the oil, get did out of the water, keep it from our marshes. so this is a massive effort that is under way and we've just into the to make a lot of improvements. >> it took years, so many years for so many small businesses to get compensated. and then not fully from the "exxon valdez" oil spill. if you're a small business owner in the gulf who is really suffering, do you tell these people you should feel
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confident, this will work out, don't worry about it? >> there is some hope for them. when the "valdez" accident happened, there was no oil pollution act on the books. there was no claims process. this has al been done post "valdez." so at least for small business owners, there is a law that should be working for you and it's my job and other people's job up here to make sure that it does. so there is hope. there have been claims that have been processed. thousands actually. and we have that data. but what we're pressing now the coast guard to do is make sure that it is streamlining that through a third party so that people can be made whole as quickly as possible. and local governments that are losing tax dollars or school boards who are losing tax revenue because businesses are shutting down. knows claims ha those claims have to be paid, as well. and we'll just put one foot forward every day and try to get the job done. >> thank you so much. we appreciate you letting us know what your committee and everyone in washington is doing and we wish you a lot of luck on
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behalf of all the small businesses. >> thank you. vuf called a customer service line and felt like the person on the other end of phone didn't care about you at all? well, one entrepreneur who run as skin care line knows the feeling and she's made it her mission to change it that. >> it's about a lot more than just developing product. we're not just putting stuff in bottleses. it's developing a whole system that's all about deepening that dialogue open wherever you may be. >> if you happen to be one of celeste's customers, chances are you'll be hearing from her or one of her employees. >> in today's world, that may be on a plane, it may be in a car, it may be via twitter, facebook. e-mail. cell phone. what we've learned is there's not one way to reach people. it's a combination of all those things together in and ongoing consistent chat with them. >> the ceo of the skin authority
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says her company not only provides a personalized skin care experience, but an interactive one, as well. >> what we're really doing is we're talking about how do we create a dialogue with a consumer, a two-way dialogue that is all about them sharing how they feel about themselves, how they would love to project the image that they want. >> so while she knows the primary reason people buy skin care products -- >> i think everybody cares about how they look. >> her business promises who are. she's made it skin authority's mission to form long lasting bonds with it customers. >> i was always confused about when you snop a big screen tv, and you have list of specs. you can go and compare and shop and decide what's best for you. but when you walk and self-diagnose down the aisle of rite aid or cvs, it's tough to know if that's right for you and that's nobody to guide you through that process. >> skin authority promotes an intimate authority to business by reaching out to every chint.
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a team of coaches is responsible for maintaining contact with customers in a variety of ways. >> anytime of the day, you can call, e-mail, cell phone, text. we've done some of that, too. they take it really seriously on what i actually want and what i want the outcome to be. and that's very appreciating. >> the conversation isn't only designed to answer questions or field comments. it's chance for skin authority to build a profile of every customer. >> raw mom, are you a dad, are you active, are you a traveler. what stage are in yyou in your . so it's and he will building th building a narrative about you. >> they can customize answerses for every client. the hope is that customers will then feel comfortable fluff to start reaching out to skin authority on their own. >> none of on us customer care people on the phone have canned scripts. we do not believe in that. what we want to do is empower them with information they need so that when we're in contact
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with you, however we contact you, even a short twitter or facebook entry, it's really about you. >> skin authority's personal touch is certainly paying off. despite the economic downturn, revenue continues to climb and about 75% of customers have repurchaseded the customer's products. >> feeling good about yourself in general is recession-proof. if anything, it's like comfort food. i think people really want to invest in themselves to feel good that there is something that they can afford to do like that little luxury. >> while customers can buy skin authority products directly from the company itself, it's not their only option. moisturizers and cleansers are available for purchase at 150 spa partners around the world. some with familiar names like the ritz-carlton and noble house. even though some clients buy their products new a spa partner, skin authority still does all the follow-up. >> we found that a majority of our guests and a lot of people
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in this day and age are looking for instant gratification and with our previous skin care lines, our guests weren't seeing that. >> what we found is our partners love h the hay low effect of the brand being seen as someone who cares and delivers that level of service, so it's a natural fit in the skin authority because that's our core value. >> skin authority's free advice applies to every customer. it doesn't matter how much or how little someone spends. >> people who buy over the phone who paid $6 for one of our travel size cleansers gets that ongoing touch and they say you know i only bought the $6 cleanser. and they're just shock that had they have that level of student. >> at first they're skeptical, why are you calling me? you know. but then we explain we're your coach, we've been assigned to you. we're here for you. you interact with us as you want to interact with us. >> the personal touch has been so successful for the company that traditionaling has never been an issue. >> we've never run an ad as a
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company. and we're around the globe today. and part of that or a huge part of that is when you have a relationship as strong as the one we have with our customers, they tell everyone about it. and in the end, that's more powerful than any photo. >> with an expanding customer base and the possibility of new opportunities, the company that started in celeste's garage still has plans to grow. regardless of its size, however, the customer service with a personal touch is something that skin authority will never sacrifice. >> the consumer has really been our biggest cheerleader. and they voted with their dollars and they voted with their referrals and relationships that they brought to us. >> we want you to life. it cost us a lot of money to gain you as a customer, but once we convince you, we want you to stay with us and we really appreciate the value of that relationship. just how important is to give your customers the impression that you're personally involved in their
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satisfaction? well, let's turn to this week's wo board of directors to ask what they think. great to see both of you. what struck me about this piece is this is expensive. you think following up with someone, it's easy. but it costs quite a bit of money to train your customer service people. >> it is very expensive and very interesting and exciting that they've been able to find a way to innovate around customer service. one of the things i think entrepreneurs sometimes get confused with, it's not just about the simple product, the deliverable. it's about the after experience. and they've really found a way to significantly innovate in that area. >> what struck me also is the last bite in the piece was when he said it cost as lot to get a customer. and i think also business owners often are so focused on new customer acquisition, they forget about their current
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customers. >> and that's my point. customer acquisition for new customers is done through online channels, tv broadcast, whatever your budget is, you'll assign it across the different types of media. but the reality is that you should look in your backyard. and that's where all your existing customers are. upselling an existing customer may cost you less money and drive more revenue than going out there and trying to get a new one. >> should you draw a line, though? i get it for the person who bought $300 worth. but they said the person who bought one $6 tube they keep calling back. >> it's challenging because especially as their channels expand. they talked a little bit about direct sales, but also distribute difference channels. and their customers expand, it may be a lot harder to deliver that same level of service for thousands of outlets of their products if that's the direction they go in. >> i think you have to make a cost revenue analysis and really
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take that existing data and use it to perform decision making going forward. if you look at the $6 customer, when you call them once, do they buy anything. when he call them twice, do you buy anything. if they're not, all the people in the future who buy $6 cleansers, you know thousand handle them. so really tracking metrics is incredibly important for customer service. use the data to inform your decision making. with the online media, to have customers have a good experience, spread the world. the way the world works today, word travels so fast. >> they send personalized notes, also. i know a lot of times i'll be shopping and i'll get a note from the person that helps me. oftentimes i just throw it out. >> it's interesting. ic ti think the business needs o understand the way customers want to be communicated with.
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some luove the personal note. so make sure you understand how they want to enter act with the company. >> an interesting thing for small businesses to look at. thanks, you guys. when we come back, ways to effectively run and market your business without spending a lot of money. and little clover helps show off her binkie keep sake bracelet. i own a small law firm and i'm a much better lawyer than i am an accountant. so, when i wasn't getting paid as quickly as i would like, i did what came naturally. i threatened to sue. turns out, that's not the best way to keep clients. so i went looking for answers online at openforum.com it's a place where i can talk with other small business owners like thomas and connie and learn about tools like acceptpay.
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it's a new way to bill online that can help me get paid much faster, without the need for any legal intimidation, which gives me a warm fuzzy feeling... sort of like these super comfortable socks made from the soft, supple wool of alpacas. looking good. thank you. owners are asking questions. owners are getting answers. and american express open is building the tools they need. tools like acceptpay, which lets owners take their accounts receivable online. acceptpay. invoice digitally. get paid faster. only from american express open. there is no question that running a business requires an investment. but there are ways you can cut costs.
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here are five boot strapping strategies courtesy of inc..com. up in one test. before you roll out a new product, give it a test run with people you know. two, be your own publicist. put together a list of media outlets and blogs and let them know about your new company every step of the way. three, consider bartering with suppliers. look into paying people back with goods and services rather than interest payments. four, if you're not technologically inclined, outsource your i.t. sites offer a number of options for small businesses. and number five, check out mobile applications. there are so many inexpensive apps that can help you with all kinds of routine tasks. there are a number of pacifier holders on the market, but today's picture has a unique variation that will always remind you of your baby's binky
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days. >> hi, i'm other than of templeton's timeless infant silver. this is patent pending. here comes our model, clover. it's a sterling silver pacifier holder that converts to a keepsake bracelet for mom. i created this product to keep the pacifier on baby and off the floor. currently twheer over 30 high end boutiques across the u.s. my website templetonsilver.com. i have a new teething necklace, outsource production and build inventory. >> i have to say for this elevator pick, you have an advantage because who's going to turn down this? you're seeking more money than the $200,000 or that's what you're looking for? >> i'm seeking $200,000. >> great. let's see what our panel thinks about it. you've heard a lot of these pitches. did she miss anything or get everything? >> she gave us good insight where she was distributing her
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product, high-end retail and also online. i'd always love to know the break down where the bulk of the business is. and i'd really like to know what the market potential and size would be and the price points what you're trying to sell at, so i can understand the competitive differentiation between price and product. >> two things at the end are quick, put in one line in a quick pitch. ray? >> she did great. one of the things i'd think about, what things are you looking for for investors above and beyond the money. this is a complicated industry. there's all sorts of channels, partners. in a perfect world, you'd find an invest who are could contribute more than just cash. >> when we go to the market, she seems to like it. >> love it. >> thank you so much for your advice here. thank you for coming on and pitching your product. we appreciate it. >> thank you. if any of you out there have a product or a service and want feedback from our elevator pitch panel and maybe our babies on
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your chances of getting interested investors are. address is yourbusiness@msnbc.com. include a short summary of what your company does, how much you're trying to raise and what you intend to do wirth the money. you never know, somebody might be interested in helping you. time to answer your business questions. ray and differevia back with us. a health care stocking firm. >> when starting a new business, how do you balance debt-to-income in terms of painting out more debt to finance your business or do you encourage financing a new business out of your current savings which weakens your personal finance position. >> ray? >> depends on your personal situation. so variable. if you have reserves, personally, then, you know, it's okay to start but don't go overboard to start with there. if you don't have resources
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you're going to have to get more creative. >> you have to take a look at who you are, how risky you want to be. >> starting business is risky, getting into debt is risky, they're both totally risky. best thing to do is have a substantial reserve set aside before you start the company so you can dig into it and be ready. if you don't, if you end up doing fund-raising, you should have enough money so you can pay yourself a salary if you don't get yourself into debt, put that into plan when raising money. >> this is from suzanne. we've experienced huge growth. current location is at capacity. 4 out of 5 days. we need more room to grow but the risk is scary. how do i know when it's time to move? should we buy or lease? how do we raise money without taking a huge hit on debt-to-ratio income. how does she know, is it time to jump in and get a bigger space? >> when you're busting at the
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seams and you cannot fit any more people -- which i know the feel, i've gone through this -- then you move. you've got to scour the market for a good deal. >> talking about economic times, you can probably get a good deal. >> talk to the landlord, get the first month free or a reduces rate, look for sublet or go month-to-month, so you can focus on flexibility, because your business is going to fluctuate up and down, especially if you're a new business. that's the nature of however thi how things are. >> on the other hand, sometimes you get something and you don't go big enough because you think, i want to be prudent here and then two years goes by faster and you wish you didn't have to think about real estate again. >> if you got a good deal, it won't cost a lot to move. >> good advice. >> getting out there and trying to learn about it maybe you will not find a place for yourself if you work with a real estate agent or broker or landlord, they might have another business
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growing and figure out a way to mitigate your risk yet allow you to get into a space that's workable for you financially. it's one thing to sit in your office or bedroom thinking, what do i do? you've got to get out, start the conversations and oftentimes the solution will provide itself over time. you've got to get out and work the market. >> and talk about it. >> buying, one of the questions, do you buy or lease? i think you only buy a piece of real estate if the annual return from the real estate is larger than taking that exact capital, investing it in your debt mass. if you get to take the x thousand dollars and get y return, if the return is larger than y, put it in property. if not, put it in your business. >> someone came on here once and said, do you want to be in the real estate business, because once you buy something, not only are you are you in the dog business you're in the real estate business. >> what i'd like do is get advice on how to better position myself as an expert and create market awareness without losing the market to someone else.
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>> that's interesting. i'm not sure what her business is, but clearly, it's something she doesn't want to talk about it too much because she's afraid someone might steal her idea. >> the technology available today could enable a entrepreneur to accomplish what she's tar getting, how do i engage with the community and let them know what i know, whether it's a free insight or offering or white paper, i'm not sure of what her product is, but put it out there. there may be some perspective that she has that could enable a competitor. offer incentive for folks, put out enough information so they'll engage but off of an incentive for them to engage significantly and hire you to provide the expertise that you have. >> two words, social media. that's the best way to build awareness for anything these days. it's cost effective. it's free, essentially. it just takes time and effort. on the other side, expert -- >> maybe become an expert in the feel without saying what she knows. >> exactly. the point is expertise is in the eye of the beholder.
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it's about how you position yourself. position yourself as an expert, act like an expert, guess what? you'll be regarded as an expert. get out to the press and do all of the conferences and answer people's questions and position yourself as an expert. >> if you are using social media, use testimonials. there's no better way than to position yourself as an expert if you have someone who has high significance. >> thanks so much, great having you both on the show. really appreciate it. if you have any questions for experts, go to our website. openforum.com/yourbi openforum.com/yourbusiness. again, openforum.com/yourbusiness. e-mail us your questions and comments. address is yourbusiness@msnbc.com. if you're a frequent business traveler, chances are you may have your fare share of hotel horror stories. our website of the week is here
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to help. oyster.com provides reviews and undoctored pictures from hundreds of hotels from large cities around the country. check out the best lodging for business travelers so you can make sure, for example that you're into the in a room that doesn't van internet connection. the site can help you locate special rates and weekly deals. to learn more about today's show, click on our website openforum.com/yourbusiness. find today's segments and web exclusive content to help your business grow. become a fan of the show on facebook. we look forward to getting your feedback. next week, starting up a business is not for the faint of heart. >> we've had people who say they were going to invest, truly say, handshake, and then bail, you know, at the last minute. >> we followed the founders of the company smarty-pants as they turn their idea into a full-fledge company. i'm j.j. ramburg. remember, we make your business our business.
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i own a small law firm and i'm a much better lawyer than i am an accountant. so, when i wasn't getting paid as quickly as i would like, i did what came naturally. i threatened to sue. turns out, that's not the best way to keep clients. so i went looking for answers online at openforum.com it's a place where i can talk with other small business owners like thomas and connie and learn about tools like acceptpay. it's a new way to bill online that can help me get paid much faster, without the need for any legal intimidation, which gives me a warm fuzzy feeling... sort of like these super comfortable socks made from the soft, supple wool of alpacas. looking good. thank you. owners are asking questions. owners are getting answers. and american express open is building the tools they need. tools like acceptpay,

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